[otw_shortcode_info_box border_type=”bordered” border_color_class=”otw-black-border” border_style=”bordered” shadow=”shadow-down-right” rounded_corners=”rounded-10″]This sermon is part of our Expository Preaching Collective on the Book of Nehemiah. Follow the link below to know more about What Expository preaching is and Why is it important to us. (Click here)[/otw_shortcode_info_box]
44 On that day men were appointed over the storerooms, the contributions, the firstfruits, and the tithes, to gather into them the portions required by the Law for the priests and for the Levites according to the fields of the towns, for Judah rejoiced over the priests and the Levites who ministered. 45 And they performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did the singers and the gatekeepers, according to the command of David and his son Solomon. 46 For long ago in the days of David and Asaph there were directors of the singers, and there were songs[b] of praise and thanksgiving to God. 47 And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah gave the daily portions for the singers and the gatekeepers; and they set apart that which was for the Levites; and the Levites set apart that which was for the sons of Aaron.
Don’t miss latest sermons, articles & important updates.
I want to start by asking this question: What are some ways by which we can care for the people whom God has appointed to minister to us? Often our church experience and expectations end up being very consumerist. We may think that the elders/ministers exist for us but as we will see today, as much as we require being cared for, so do the elders and ministers and I believe this text helps us with that.
[bctt tweet=”Making much of God by caring for our leaders. (Nehemiah 12:44-47)” username=”gatheringmumbai”]
We can care for our leaders/elders in 3 ways:
- Valuing our elders
- Encouraging our elders
- Supporting our elders
Value our elders
On that day men were appointed over the storerooms, the contributions, the firstfruits, and the tithes, to gather into them the portions required by the Law for the priests and for the Levites according to the fields of the towns, for Judah rejoiced over the priests and the Levites who ministered. (v44)
On the same day, we learn that men were appointed over storerooms meant for gathering tithes and offerings for the priests and Levites. As we learnt last week, it was a day of celebration! They celebrated the presence of God, they celebrated the work of God and they celebrated God being known through them. A continuation of this celebration was the celebration of the ministers. The end of v 44 says that “for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites who ministered”. Great joy for the men who served and ministered for them/to them.
So men were appointed to gather all the collection, tithes, wine, grain and oil to distribute it among the Levites and priests. Now why did the Law require them to be provided for?
From Deut 18:1-5 we learn that the Levites didn’t have a portion of land or inheritance in Israel. The food offerings that were brought into the temple were their inheritance. In fact, God tells them that “the Lord is their inheritance”. What an amazing privilege!
Why was this asked from them? It says in v5 that God chose them out of all the tribes to stand and minister in the name of the Lord. What a great and unique privilege. When we think about serving a normal human it may not seem like a huge deal but when we think about serving and standing and ministering in the presence of a Holy God…this is huge! And it’s interesting how in 1 Pet 2:9, it tells that we are a kingdom of priests as His redeemed. What an awesome privilege we get to minister and stand in the presence of God to a lost world.
So what did it mean for the people of Judah to rejoice over the Levites?
- They acknowledged the privilege that the Levites and priests had to serve the Lord.
- They recognized how important their role was in worship.
This attitude towards their spiritual leaders was only possible because of a repentant heart. Early on in this book we see how the people repented and were in right relationship with God. They gave prominence to the Law of the Lord and sought to obey all that the Lord had commanded. This resulted in finding extreme joy and value in the people God placed over them to lead them in worship.
This brings us to an important question: how do we view those who have been given the responsibility to lead and minister to us?
It’s not a norm these days. Sometimes in some circles people the perception is that only those who don’t have any career option in life, they end up in ministry. Otherwise, it’s perceived that pastoral ministry is a smart and easy way to get rich. These abuses in ministry have caused us to be skeptical. However, Scripture clearly tells us to respect and esteem those who labor among us.
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thess 5:12, 13)
And so it starts with the attitude of valuing our leaders. But how do we show them that value? By submitting to their authority through Scripture. Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Heb 13:17)
Elders are those that keep watch over our souls and so being obedient to their instruction through Scripture is important to God. Sometimes people end up agreeing to everything that the pastor advices them but doesn’t really intend to make any changes in their lives. Does this mean that the person is submissive? I don’t think so. It’s like if your boss at your workplace asks you to specifically do something, and if you don’t do it. A failure to do it would mean disrespectful to the authority of the boss. Therefore, similarly the attitude we show to our elders is best displayed in our obedience and submission.
Encourage our elders
And they performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did the singers and the gatekeepers, according to the command of David and his son Solomon. 46 For long ago in the days of David and Asaph there were directors of the singers, and there were songs[b] of praise and thanksgiving to God. (v45, 46)
The next two verses is the result of encouragement being given to the ministers in Nehemiah’s time. When they were being encouraged, they were able to perform and excel in their God given roles.
1 Pet 5:1-5:
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,[a] not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you;[b] not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
This passage gives a very good description on the responsibilities of an elder. And there is a huge responsibility! Elders are called to be under-shepherds of the flock of Jesus. And that’s what makes the responsibility big. However, I would like to look at these verses from a different angle. What if we looked at these verses from the perspective of someone who needs to submit to the leadership of an elder. What can it mean for us to not make it hard for the elders so that they can lead willingly and eagerly? What can we do to encourage the elders to be examples for us? And the moment we start thinking that way it changes the way we view the church. Coming back to the point of being a consumerist in church. Sometimes we need to step back and realize that elders also need the spiritual encouragement and accountability as much as we do. Most of the cases of ministers caught in adultery have taken place due to a life of no accountability. When was the last time you encouraged your elder telling him how he’s blessed you through his service? When was the last time you checked up on how your pastor was doing spiritually? I think this is key to ensuring that our elders are taken care of.
Supporting our elders
And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah gave the daily portions for the singers and the gatekeepers; and they set apart that which was for the Levites; and the Levites set apart that which was for the sons of Aaron. (v47)
Another thing that we need to do is support our spiritual leaders. We see in this passage how the whole nation was faithful in giving to ensure that the ministers could focus on serving in the Temple. In the next chapter we in fact see how the failure of having to support them led to a lot of problems. So coming to the question whether it is right or wrong to support those over us?
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” (1 Tim 5:17, 18)
I personally wrestled with this question for a long time. And again I don’t think the question here is bi-vocational ministry or exclusive ministry better. I think we need to look at it in this way: if supporting a minister helps him to be more effective and focused in doing what God has called him to do then that should be done. And it’s not that this is should ever be a burden on the congregation but it should be done willingly and also as a way of honouring the people appointed over the church.
I think this point of support doesn’t only apply referring to financial support but also support in terms of being involved in executing the vision of the elders. Especially as the elders think of strategizing and finding way to get the gospel out, where people come alongside and cooperate in terms of that vision. That’s certainly good support!
Finally, I think what we need to realize that the main reason that prevents us from caring for and submitting to our leaders is due to our sin! It’s not them…it’s us! Resisting authority is a result of the fall and that’s why we desperately need the gospel. The gospel…the death of Jesus on the cross nailed the sin of selfishness and pride and ego and allows us to humbly be led by our elders. And humble submitting to our elders magnifies God – why because there is submission within the Trinity as well. The Son submits to the Father and the Holy Spirit submits to both the Father and the Son. All three persons in the Trinity are equal, yet we find submission. How can we then not view, rejoice, care for our elders with that in mind?